In a nutshell, NCL's "open access pricing policy" states that all NCL prices and promotions will be available to all travel agents. This is basically the same strategy Carnival introduced last summer, meant to level the playing field so that agencies -- whether small, medium or large -- all have access to the same fares.
The policy that has a bigger impact on travelers, meanwhile, is the "price advertising policy." This prohibits agents from advertising non-NCL-approved prices in public mediums (like the Web). This is similar to the policy Royal Caribbean and Celebrity initiated a few months ago, which fueled the pricing brouhaha Carnival had already started. (For more information, click here.)
What this means, ultimately, is limited competition between agencies -- and fewer bargains for the savvy cruise consumer. In the past, many agencies offered a portion of their commissions to consumers in the form of discounts, cabin upgrades, etc., awarding travelers with fares lower than the cruise line's lowest price. Now, travel agencies selling cruises on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity -- and as of January 17, NCL -- cannot do so for lower than the respective cruise line's minimum retail selling price.
NCL is the latest cruise line to try to even out the fare system; those majors that haven't yet joined in -- at least for now -- include Holland America and Princess.